In a Sicilian village it is Easter Sunday. Santuzza's former lover Turiddu is in love with Lola, Alfio's wife. Santuzza seeks revenge by telling Alfio of Lola's unfaithfulness and he kills Turiddu in a fight, after the latter has left Santuzza in the charge of his mother.
It is Easter morning in a Sicilian village. A sad, anxious girl, Santuzza, is looking for her lover Turridu, who betrayed her and went back to his former fiancée, Lola, who had meanwhile married the wealthy Alfio when he returned from the army. Santuzza tries in vain to win back her lover. Mad with jealousy, she tells Alfio, the cuckolded husband, about Lola and Turridu. At that point, Turridu’s fate is sealed. Alfio provokes him to a duel. After saying goodbye to his mother, Turridu leaves for his fatal meeting.
Opera in one act
Sung in Italian
About 1 hour 15 min
A 19th-century Sicilian village
Before the action takes place the young villager Turiddu returned from military service to find out that his fiancée Lola had married the carter Alfio while he was away. In revenge, Turiddu seduced Santuzza, a young woman in the village. As the opera begins, Lola, overcome by her jealousy of Santuzza, has begun an adulterous affair with Turiddu.
The main square of the village
Offstage, Turiddu is heard singing a siciliana, "O Lola c'hai di latti la cammisa" ("O Lola! like the snow, pure in thy whiteness!"). To one side is the church; to the other is Lucia's wine shop and the house where she lives with her son, Turiddu. The villagers move about the square, singing of the beautiful spring day, "Gli aranci olezzano sui verdi margini" ("The air is sweet with orange blossoms") and a hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some villagers enter the church, and others wander off still singing.
Santuzza, having slept with Turiddu and suspecting that he has betrayed her for Lola, is distraught and approaches Lucia as she comes out of her house. Santuzza asks for Turiddu, but Lucia replies that he has gone to another town to fetch some wine. Santuzza tells her that he was seen during the night in the village. Lucia asks her inside to talk, but just at that moment Alfio arrives on his wagon, accompanied by the villagers. He praises the joys of a teamster's life and the beauty of Lola his bride. Alfio asks Lucia for some of her fine old wine. She tells him it has run out, and Turiddu has gone away to buy more. Alfio replies that he had seen Turiddu early that morning near his cottage. Lucia starts to express surprise, but Santuzza stops her.
Alfio leaves. The choir inside the church is heard singing the Regina Coeli. Outside, the villagers sing an Easter Hymn, "Inneggiamo, il Signor non è morto" ("We rejoice that our Saviour is living!") joined by Santuzza. The villagers enter the church, while Santuzza and Lucia remain outside. Lucia asks Santuzza why she signalled her to remain silent when Alfio said that he had seen Turiddu that morning. Santuzza exclaims, "Voi lo sapete" ("You well know") and tells Lucia the story of her seduction by Turiddu and his affair with Lola. Lucia pities Santuzza, who feels dishonoured, having been seduced by Turiddu only to be abandoned by him for his old flame, Lola. Santuzza feels she cannot enter the church, but begs Lucia to go inside herself and pray for Santuzza who stays behind to try to plead with Turiddu to leave Lola and return to her.
Turiddu arrives. Santuzza upbraids him for pretending to have gone away, when he was actually seeing Lola. Lola enters the square, singing. She mocks Santuzza and goes inside the church. Turiddu turns to follow Lola, but Santuzza begs him to stay. Turiddu pushes her away. She clings to him. He loosens her hands, throws her to the ground, and enters the church. Alfio arrives looking for Lola. Santuzza tells him that his wife has betrayed him with Turiddu. Alfio swears to take vendetta (revenge) which causes Santuzza to repent for having disclosed the affair and begs Alfio to stop to no avail.
The square is empty as the orchestra plays the famous Intermezzo.
The villagers come out of the church. Turiddu is in high spirits because he is with Lola and Santuzza appears to have gone. He invites his friends to his mother’s wine shop where he sings a drinking song, "Viva, il vino spumeggiante" ("Hail to the bubbling wine!"). Alfio joins them. Turiddu offers him wine, but he refuses it. Everyone understands that trouble is in the air. The women leave, taking Lola with them. In a brief exchange of words, Alfio challenges Turiddu to a duel. Following Sicilian custom, the two men embrace, and Turiddu, in a token of acceptance, bites Alfio’s ear, drawing blood which signifies a fight to the death. Alfio leaves and Turiddu calls Lucia back. He tells her that he is going outside to get some air and asks that she be a kindly mother to Santuzza if he should not return: "Un bacio, mamma! Un altro bacio!—Addio!" ("One kiss, mother! One more kiss! – Farewell!").
Turiddu rushes out. Lucia, weeping, wanders aimlessly around outside her house. Santuzza approaches and throws her arms around her. The villagers start to crowd around. Voices are heard in the distance and a woman cries, "They have murdered Turiddu!" Santuzza faints and Lucia collapses in the arms of the women villagers.
Santuzza – Soprano/Mezzo-soprano (spinto)
A peasant girl
Turiddu – Tenor (spinto)
A young villager recently returned from the army
Lucia – Contralto
Alfio – Baritone (dramatic)
Lola – Mezzo-soprano (lyric)
Place of birth: Livorno, Tuscany, Italy
Place of death: Rome, Italy
Mascagni wrote 15 operas, an operetta, orchestral works as well as songs and piano music. He is most famous for his first opera Cavalleria rusticana but the operas l'amico Fritz and Iris are still regularly performed, especially in Italy.
He married Lina Carbognani in 1889. The day after the wedding their first son was born. They had two more children. In 1903 he met Anna Lolli and their illicit relationship lasted until Mascagni's death in 1945.
“There are three degrees of comparison: stupido, stupidissimo and tenore.”
“Modern music is as dangerous as narcotics”
Besides being a successful composer, Mascagni was also a successful conductor. Mascagni was internationally famous at the age of 26.
Most prominent operas
The libretto is based on the short story and play, Cavalleria rusticana, by Giovanni Verga.
Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti was an Italian librettist most known for his collaborations with Pietro Mascagni. Together with Guido Menasci they wrote the libretto for Cavalleria rusticana. Both Menasci and Targioni-Tozzetti lived and died in Livorno, Italy.
2d2, 2, 2, 2 - 4, 2, 3, 1
timp, perc, 2 harps, bells, organ, strings
The classic Verismo opera Cavalleria rusticana premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome in 1890. The opera is often performed as a double-bill together with Pagliacci by Leoncavallo.
Today it is one of the top 30 most performed operas worldwide.
Aria - Voi lo sapete (Santuzza)
Aria – Mamma, quel vino è generoso (Turiddu)